Indiana : Safety by City
- Cedar Lake
- Crown Point
- Fort Wayne
- Michigan City
- Santa Claus
- South Bend
- Terre Haute
- Winona Lake
It’s easy to write off Portage, Indiana, as an industrial town along the South Shore region of northern Indiana.
When you look closer, you see a lot more than smokestacks and a lot safer community than some others nearby.
Portage is home to 38,000 people and is on the main interstate and rail line to the Chicago area.
It also has beautiful beaches lapping up the waves from Lake Michigan and Instagram spot after Instagram spot along the riverwalk.
You can drive 30 minutes and be in the tourist retreat of Michigan City, Indiana as well.
From the beach to a historic barn, you can find a wide variety of things to do in this small town with some restaurants that are making me hungry two hours before lunchtime.
With so many outdoor adventures to be found here, it’s a good thing the Bass Prop Shop is right in town.
Hotels are conveniently located right on the interstate.
Be sure when you’re researching Portage you are looking at Portage, Indiana, as there are cities with the same name in Michigan and Wisconsin.
The industrial footprint here is critical to the livelihood of the city and the products many Americans use every day.
As one local told me, “The smokestacks might be annoying for some, but those smokestacks burning means there’s progress being made,” and I thought that was a quote worth sharing.
Warnings & Dangers in Portage
OVERALL RISK : LOW
There's a low overall risk in Portage. None of the crime categories go above the national or state average. It ranks in the top 15 Safest Cities in Indiana.
TRANSPORT & TAXIS RISK : LOW
There's a rail line that goes into Chicago and throughout the South Shore region. Coach USA is a shuttle service that stops in Portage and goes to many places, from Michigan City to Chicago to Notre Dame. You can also call a taxi or rideshare. There's low risk with any option.
PICKPOCKETS RISK : LOW
There was just one pickpocket reported in 2020 and the thief didn't even get away with any money. I love reading statistics where clearly the person who was a victim was smart enough to not carry around a lot of money. There's a low risk it will happen to you.
NATURAL DISASTERS RISK : MEDIUM
Winter is going to be cold, brutally cold, at times. The city gets more than three feet of snow a year. You have to worry about flooding, severe thunderstorms, and tornadoes as well, mostly in spring and summer. An average day will have a low risk, but if there's a weather watch, it goes up to medium risk.
MUGGING RISK : LOW
I think this is the first time I've seen this statistic - there were no robberies in public places in 2020. On top of that, the city had just 10 robberies in 2020, which is almost three times less than the national average.
TERRORISM RISK : LOW
There's a low-risk Portage would be a target of terrorists. Large cities like Chicago are more likely to be hard targets.
SCAMS RISK : LOW
Reports of email scams, phone scams, and service call scams are widely reported in Portage, but there's nothing to concern a local/tourist about being scammed. It is important to know that if anyone ever asks you to buy a gift card for them or for a service, it's likely a scam.
WOMEN TRAVELERS RISK : LOW
Women should feel relatively safe visiting here. It's much safer than nearby Gary. You should always protect yourself with basic security steps, like avoiding walking around alone at night.
TAP WATER RISK : LOW
American Water provided the tap water for this entire region. No violations were found as reported in the 2021 Annual Water Quality Report. I really like the way American Water does its reports because it's more than just information about chemicals or contaminants, it's detailed information that an average person can read about how water gets to customers and ways to make it safer for everyone.
Safest Places to Visit in Portage
Founder’s Square is the grassy area in the center of Portage’s downtown area, though it’s not your typical town square.
However, if there’s an event going on in Portage, it’s likely to happen in this park.
You can check the city website or chamber of commerce for upcoming events.
The Portage Lakefront and Riverwalk is the highlight of the city, with nearly 60 acres to explore.
This area is relatively new, having just opened in 2008.
Yes, the industrial area is right next to it, but the way the land is laid out there are plenty of views that don’t include factories.
You are also very close to Indiana Dunes National Park, which is a wider area of trails and beachfront public areas.
The Port of Indiana is the largest in Indiana and there’s also a local marina for boaters.
Two public golf courses and several city parks make the great outdoors pretty great here through all seasons.
The Alton Goin Museum is tucked into a barn on 33 acres of countryside.
You can learn about the history and see the artifacts of the Portage area.
Portage also has the only IMAX theater in this section of the state.
The Bass Pro Shop is another popular spot for people who just want to dream about owning a boat or those looking to do some shopping for recreational items.
Places to Avoid in Portage
The higher crime rates are on the south and southeast sides of the city limits.
Portage is a blue-collar working-class town with a strong community spirit.
There might be neighborhoods that aren’t pleasant to look at, but there’s rarely a place where it’s not safe to drive.
You should still stick to the surface streets and highways, just to be safe.
If you want to explore the beach, it’s best to stay in Portage and go east if you want more beach action.
Going west is going to take you closer to Gary, which has a very high crime and homicide rate.
I’d suggest avoiding Gary, even if you just need gas.
It’s too easy to wander into a bad situation there as a tourist.
You should check the Lake Michigan Water Quality through the Indiana Department of Environmental Management before you get into the water.
There’s an IDEM Beach Alert app to download so you can check all beach access points along the South Shore.
There have been at least two spills from the Portage steel mill since 2017 that put contaminants into the water.
One of them resulted in U.S. Steel getting a $600,000 fine.
Safety Tips for Traveling to Portage
- You can sign up for alerts from the city ranging from weather to police to street emergencies. There’s a list of options under the “Notify Me” section of the city’s website where you can pick and choose which ones you want. Hyper-Reach is another app you can sign up for which is more dedicated to big emergencies or severe weather.
- Crime trends can change even within a few months, so it’s a great idea to check the interactive SpotCrime map by the police department. Each crime is listed on the map with a summary of what happened.
- When more than two inches of snow accumulates, it’s considered a “snow emergency,” which sounds scary, but isn’t. It just means that parking is banned on city streets so the snow plows can get through. Generally, the plows can clean the whole city in about 24 hours. Just because you see a plow go through doesn’t mean you can park there again. They might be planning to do another pass on that section of the road.
- There is a lot of work being done on the railroad crossings throughout the South Shore area in 2022 and that could spread into the next few years. You can check the railroad work through the National Park Service website or use a traffic app like Waze. This could cause a detour, so don’t always trust that your GPS knows about the construction detours.
- The steel mills and industrial plants do have a lot of stuff coming out of the smoke stacks. If you are worried about air quality, you can check the EPA’s report at AirNow.gov. There’s also a mobile app for it. I have the app and it’s very easy to use.
- If you are at the beach and the water is really rough, you shouldn’t go in the water. The waves here can cause gnarly rip tides or knock you off your feet. You can visit the National Weather Service website for more information about daily beach hazards.
- The beach in Portage isn’t the widest beach available. Erosion has caused the shoreline to shrink. You can go to Indiana Dunes National Park for a wider beach and lifeguards during the day during summer. Portage is a good option if you are going kayaking.
- You’ll need a fishing license from the state of Indiana if you want to catch fish here. Another bonus is that anglers can fish around the clock while the beach is closed to the rest of the public from 11:00 pm to 6:00 am.
- If you’re used to beach vacations along the ocean or gulf, you’ve been trained to “stay off the dunes.” Here, you are not only allowed to climb the dunes, but you can also take part in a “3 Dunes Challenge” at Indiana Dunes National Park. While the tallest peak is just 192 feet, it’s a walk mostly made of sand, so it will make your legs sore. Bring plenty of water and bug spray in the warmer months. In the summer you can sled down the “Devil’s Slide,” but be sure to wear a helmet for safety.
- If you’re visiting the riverwalk in Portage, try to get there before 8:00 am or after 5:00 pm to have the best chance of getting a parking spot. There are less than 100 spaces available. The National Park Service tells me that West Beach is one of the best places to go for smaller crowds.
So... How Safe Is Portage Really?
Indiana can be really hit or miss when trying to find a safe place.
There have been growing gun crimes and drug problems in many cities in the state.
Portage has avoided the worst of it by having lower than average crime rates in all categories.
Here’s how the risks break down:
- Violent Crime: 1 in 462 risk
- Robbery: 1 in 3,792 risk
- Theft: 1 in 80 risk
25% of the thefts were related to car break-ins, so you’ve got to lock doors and roll-up windows when parking and NOT leave valuables behind.
34% of the thefts were shoplifting, so if you see a shoplifter you should alert the police.
60% of all violent crimes happened in private homes based on 2020 data, which means there’s an even less chance of a tourist being affected by the crimes.
However, crime rates can change quickly.
It’s important to review the social media sites of local law enforcement and check out that interactive crime map before you go.
There’s also a very engaging Facebook page called Portage 411 that has a bunch of locals talking about issues that impact the city.
They’d be a great resource right before your trip.
How Does Portage Compare?
- Visas - Plan ahead four months to start the visa process so you make all the deadlines for your trip. You'll need your visa at the airport so don't pack it in checked bags. You won't need to show your visa to travel between the cities of Indiana.
- Currency - You can only use the U.S. Dollar here and there's not a lot of reason to bring cash. You can mobile pay or use a credit card for all purchases.
- Weather - People in Northern Indiana don't let something like bitter cold below 0°(F) temperatures keep them from going outside, so bring thick winter layers of clothing when you visit. Spring and fall can be volatile with temperatures, so bring plenty of layers. Summer will be warm and muggy. You'll definitely need bug spray to keep the mosquitos away.
- Airports - You can get to the Chicago area airports, either Midway or O'Hare, in less than two hours. Midway is closer, but O'Hare is bigger, so that's up to you.
- Travel Insurance - You'll be thankful you have travel insurance with all the weather risks that can cancel or delay flights.
Portage Weather Averages (Temperatures)
Average High/Low Temperature
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